Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cobalt Studios: Summer Scene Painting #7

Cobalt Studios

Grey Marble Trompe L'oeil 
For my mid-value marble, I chose a grey marble with black and white veins.  I had painted grey marble many times, but I wanted to experiment with a different techniques.  I asked Kimb if she had ever used charcoal for the veins in marble.  She knew a technique for that and coached me through it.

This project was really in two parts.  The first part was to paint a slab of marble and the second part was to paint a carved, trompe l'oeil entablature, complete with egg and dart moulding and dentals.

Step #1:  Base Coat
The piece of muslin I was using had already been primed with starch so I didn't need to do that.  I began with a three color scumble to block out the color zones in the marble.  A neutral grey, a darker grey and a lighter grey, mostly cool but the lighter value was a little warmer.  My scumble wasn't overly blended.  I wanted hard edges in places that would inform me later on where the veins should go.

I also spattered a little of the lighter value in places.

Base scumble

Step #2:  Veining
After talking with Kimb about process, I placed a large piece of vine charcoal in a bamboo and drew out the major veins.  Then I used a smaller piece of charcoal in a smaller bamboo and drew in the spidery veins.

Then I used Sculptural Arts Coating, Flat Plastic Varnish to seal in the charcoal.  I mixed the plastic varnish with one part varnish to seven parts water.  Then I applied it with a sea sponge, in a dabbing technique.  The dabbing with the sea sponge doesn't just seal the charcoal, it also moves the charcoal powder around and it tends to blend the overall piece.

The plastic varnish, mixed with the charcoal dust in the sea sponge tended to give the marble a granular feel, like real marble has.

Charcoal applied very heavily

Sealed and blended with plastic varnish

The piece I chose also had some white veins in it as well.  I thought about setting them with white paint, but then I remembered I was trying to learn something and do something I had never done before.  I found some chalk and laid in the white veins and once again used the plastic varnish to seal in the chalk.

White veins added in chalk, before the plastic varnish

Once the marble slab was complete, it was time to paint the trompe l'oeil.

Step #3:  Shadow and Shade, The Stencil
Once again, we used a story stick to lay out the horizontal lines of our entablature.  We were also instructed to walk around our piece and find our least favorite corner and orient our painting accordingly so we could paint it out like the other marble piece we painted.

Once we had our marks made and our horizontal lines cartooned in, we then painted in our cast shadows.  Most of the time, we paint our shade first, but on this type of trompe l'oeil, we paint that second.  The cast shadows inform the painter where the shade, highlight and zingers go.

To paint the cast shadow, we used stencils.  These were shop made stencils, made in the style of the Metropolitan Opera.  Rachel and Kimb learned how to make these stencils from the scenics there many years ago.  These stencils are made by first drawing out your design on a piece of kraft paper.  Then, using clear packing tape, completely cover the back side of the kraft paper.  Then you turn the paper over and completely cover the front.  Always careful not to create any puckers.  Then, using an exacto knife, you cut out the pattern.  Voila, instant stencil.  You don't have to find it online, buy it and wait for shipping.  You can create a stencil in this fashion and go straight to work.

We painted the cast shadows for the dentals and the egg and dart first.  This was the only part of the project I painted sitting down.  For everything else I used a bamboo brush extender and stood up to paint.

Metropolitan Opera style stencil.  Notice that the horizontal lines and the profile of the entablature have been drawn on with charcoal

Stenciling.  The only thing I did down on this project.  Everything else was done standing up with bamboos

Dentals shadows stenciled in

Egg and dart stenciled in

After the stenciling was done, I then added the shade.  Shadow is basically Payne's Grey and shade is made with ultramarine blue and burnt umber.  Shade is slightly warmer than shadow.  Shade is the darker area on a surface, caused by lack of direct light, whereas cast shadow falls away from an object.  The dentals don't get shade.  The egg and dart do.  The shade on the egg got a fuzzy line in the center, as did the curved portions of the entablature.

As in all trompe l'oeil applications, the most important thing to remember is light source.  Where is it coming from, what angle, what direction.  Always remember where your light is coming from.

It was also at this time that I painted the shade and the cast shadow on and under the horizontal lines of the rest of the entablature.

Shade and shadow

Close up.  Note that the shade is slightly warmer than the shadow.

Step #4:  Highlight and Zinger
Shade and shadow work best when they are painted transparently.  Highlight works best for me when it's painted translucently.  Zingers are opaque.

The highlight is made by taking the local color and adding the color of the light.  In this case I chose a pink for my primary light color.  The highlight goes on, basically opposite the shade.  The center of the egg also gets a fuzzy line with the highlight.

Highlights added.  I didn't really like the highlights on the dentals, but I believe from stage they'd read okay.

Next, we painted the zinger on the highest part of the relief.  I used a one inch Purdy for that.  The zinger is the highlight color with white added.  White tends to make everything a little more opaque.  It's good for a zinger to be opaque.

Zinger added, including a dab on the egg

Step #5:  Bounce Light and Cut Line
For my bounce light, I chose and orange.  Thought it would be dramatic.  I also considered it to be straight on and at ankle height, as if it were from a fireplace.  Bounce light tends to accent a piece in a dramatic way.  Wherever we go, there is rarely a single light source.  Bounce light creates just that much more credibility in trompe l'oeil painting.

Bounce light added.  Close up, it looks a little broad, but from stage it blends quite nicely

Then it was time to paint the cut line.  The cut line is opaque black and goes in the deepest part of the shadow, and also where planes are perpendicular to one another within the shadow.

Cut line added

Step #6:  Paint it Black
With a one inch Purdy, I then cut in the profile of the entablature with velour black paint.  Velour black is the deepest, most black artist paint I've ever used.

Once the profile was painted, I got a bigger brush and filled in.  The marble piece was done.

Cutting in with the one inch Purdy

All blacked out

The finished piece on display

Along with it's brother

This was a very rewarding piece to paint.  I had painted trompe l'oeil a little bit before, but never to this level of detail.  It opened up new horizons for me as a scenic artist.  I can't wait to paint more of it.  My time was well spent at Cobalt Studios and I am thankful to the Administration of BYU-Idaho and the College of Visual and Performing Arts for giving me the opportunity to go out and better my craft and for investing the resources for me to do so.  I believe it was money well spent.  My scene painting class was good before the Cobalt experience but it was exponentially better after.  I can't wait to teach it again.

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